Metro Twin New York Architecture Images-Upper West Side

Metro Theater


Boak & Paris


2626 Broadway, bet. W99 & W100.




Art Deco  


Terracotta facade





Metro Twin
  Opening as the Midtown Theater, this classic theater, located almost 60 blocks north of Times Square, survived several tumultuous years.

Beginning as a first run theater, the Midtown, now known as the Metro (Twin), switched to second run and then adult films during New York City's darker years (the 70's and 80's).

Restored by Clearview Cinemas and twinned, the Metro has retained its beautiful and unique Art Deco facade.

This underrated theater closed in January 2003, shortly after the Olympia met the reaper, but reopened only a couple months later.

The Metro was once more closed by Clearview in August 2004.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

The first features booked into the Metro when it reopened under the management of Cineplex Odeon in the summer of 1986 were 'She's Gotta Have It' and 'A Great Wall'. It operated as a first-run house until January of 2003 when the landlord suddenly shut its doors as the result of a lease dispute with Clearview Cinemas, which had assumed control of the Metro (and several other Manhattan theatres) in the fall of 1998 when Cineplex Odeon was forced to divest itself of a handful of sites around the country in anticipation of its merger with Loews Theatres. Suddenly, in April of '03, the Metro - still a Clearview property - opened for business again (showing 'Chicago' and the Chris Rock comedy 'Head of State' on its two screens); however, rumors still abound of its eventual closing, to be possibly replaced by yet another UWS high-rise apartment tower.

Sadly, as of tonight, the marquee now reads "Sorry We're Closed," although as of last weekend it was still open. The low-rise building to its north is empty and I've heard they're going to be razed, so things don't look good for the Metro. I won't miss the uncomfortable seats, but I will miss its mere existence as the only movie theater betw. 84th St. and the Magic Johnson on 125th. If anyone knows anything about the future of the building I'd love to know. Maybe at least the facade will be preserved!

The Midtown, designed by the architecture firm of Boak & Paris, opened in 1933. From 1948 through April 1972, it was part of the Brandt circuit, featuring sub-run foreign and independent fare starting in the 1950s. It exhibited films such as Belle de Jour, Shame (and just about every other Bergman movie), Breathless, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Repulsion, L’Avventura, Straw Dogs, and Gimme Shelter, though never in exclusive engagements. After Brandt's management, it operated as an adult film venue.
In 1982, its operation was taken over by Dan Talbot's New York Cinemas and it was twinned. Renamed the Metro, it opened for business as an exhibitor of repertory art house fare on October 1, 1982. The facility's HVAC system was overhauled and new bathrooms were installed in 1986.
On July 17, 1987, management of the theatre was assumed by Cineplex Odeon. Clearview Cinemas operated the theatre from December 1998 through August 26, 2004.
It is expected to be re-opened, with new seats and screens and under the management of Peter Elson, in November 2004.
The theatre's Art Deco facade received landmark designation in 1989.
Regarding some of the other comments about this theatre:
1. If one discounts for occassional short-term closings which generally mark the history of old cinemas, the Metro is the 2nd-longest operating movie theatre in Manhattan, exceeded in age only by the New Coliseum, which opened 13 years earlier. I am excluding Radio City which, though it opened at the end of 1932, is not primarily a film exhibitor.
2. Regarding the Midtown moniker, I think there are two, likely related, explanations. First off, the theatre is located at the "approximate" halfway point on Manhattan's north-south axis. There are about 120 blocks above, and 120 below, the Metro. Second, one must consider the context of the times in which the theatre was built. It began operation less than two years after the George Washington Bridge opened to traffic on 10/25/1931. The location of the Loew's 175th Street theatre, opened in 1930, is evidence of the belief of the time that the GWB would transform upper Manhattan and, probably, result in the neighborhood in which the Metro is located becoming known and thought of as "Midtown."



By David Freeland

THE METRO TAKES A BOW The marquee of the Metro Twin Theater at 99th and Broadway reads "SORRY
WE RE CLOSED."A metal grate covers the entrance, and community members have attached cardboard signs with handwritten laments: "Save the Metro," "No More High Rises," "Gristedes Sucks My Butt!" Having recently lost the Olympia on 107th St. to development, people are upset that the Metro—one of the area's last remaining commercial movie houses—could be replaced by a supermarket.

Built in 1932-33 as the incongruously named Midtown, the Metro is admired for its striking Art Deco terra-cotta facade (complete with black "fins" at the top). The distinctive background of salmon and black sets off the building's most unusual feature: a large, circular emblem depicting comedy and tragedy masks alongside two human figures. With its innovative color and design, the theater commands attention from blocks away—especially at night when the neon marquee is blazing. There's nothing else quite like it in Manhattan.

Cinemas often take on the personal histories of their communities, as evidenced by one sign-writer's comment: "The movie theatre that I lost my virginity in!" Public concern for the Metro is understandable in a neighborhood that has seen its once-numerous picture houses—among them the New Yorker, the Loew's 83rd Street and the Riviera—gradually replaced by condos and chain stores. A New York Times article last year hinted at the uncertainty of the Metro's future, while a contributor to Cinema Treasures (a website devoted to classic theaters) recently gave it up as "doomed for redevelopment."

But in fact, everyone can all relax. Although no marker exists on the site, the Metro has been a designated New York City landmark for years—a fact confirmed with the help of the Landmarks Commission and Penny Ryan at Manhattan Community Board 7.

"Gristedes has no connection with the property," insists Albert Bialek, general partner for the theater's owner, Broadway Metro Associates. "I don't know what made anybody think that."

Instead of demolishing the building, Bialek plans to reopen it as "the ultimate art theater in New York." He recently bought out the existing lease with Clearview Cinemas, and will upgrade with new seats, carpeting and wider screens. A soon-to-be-named "celebrity operator" has been hired to run the theater and scout out cutting-edge films from around the world. If all goes according to plan, the new Metro could be unveiled as early as November.

"We're changing with the neighborhood," Bialek says. "The Upper West Side is a place where a great art theater will be appreciated."

For once, a New York theater story with a happy ending.